In 2013, Baltimore Ravens quarterback, Joe Flacco had a magical postseason. Flacco led the Ravens past the Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, and San Francisco 49ers to deliver Baltimore their second Lombardi trophy, and he did it without throwing a single interception. He threw for 1,140 yards, 11 TDs, and zero interceptions against the four best teams the NFL had to offer. And then his rookie contract ran out, and the Ravens were stuck in a tough spot.
They really only had three choices. They could let Flacco test free agency on his own, and in doing so, take the chance they’d lose their franchise quarterback to a higher paying team, they could use the franchise tag, accruing almost $20 million in cap damage for one season, or they could give Flacco whatever he wanted in a long term deal.
Several teams needed a quarterback that year, and many of them had significantly more cap space than Baltimore did, so they couldn’t risk the first option. As for the second option, Flacco hadn’t done anything to that point to prove he was worth $20 million per season. Even in 2012, he only threw 22 touchdowns all year. So the Ravens had no choice but to sign him to a very lucrative, long term contract, which they did, by signing him to a six-year, $120.6 million contract.
This angered many Ravens fans, especially because they lost many free agents that year. Anquan Boldin, Paul Kruger, Cary Williams, Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard, Dannell Ellerbe, and others couldn’t remain with the Ravens because they just didn’t have the cap room. In fact, since that season, the Ravens have been so strapped for cash that they haven’t been able to lure the big name free agents to Baltimore.
This was never as apparent as it was in 2015, when injuries took the Ravens’ biggest stars away. Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, Steve Smith Sr., Terrell Suggs, Eugene Monroe, and others spent significant time on Injured Reserve this season, and the Ravens had to make do with their younger players, which explains why they only won five games.
Obviously, it’s easy to blame Joe Flacco. The $120.6 million deal received a lot of publicity, and it seems to be a lot of money for someone who hasn’t thrown for 4,000 yards once in eight seasons. However, that is unfair. While the aforementioned $120 million got its fair share of TV time, Flacco hasn’t made as much money as the average fan thinks. It’s $120 million distributed over the course of six years. Now, it’s worth noting that his 2016 cap number will be worth $28.55 million, a number that will likely be negotiated into an extension before the season starts. But so far, the most money that Flacco has meant against the cap in a season has been $14.55 million, which made him only the 12th highest paid quarterback in the league.
So while Flacco has made good money, he’s far from the most expensive player on the roster. Horribly inconsistent corners, Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb, will combine for $19.1 million against the cap in 2016. Troubled offensive lineman Eugene Mornoe will worth $8.7 million against the cap in 2016. And aging pass rushers, Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs will be worth $14.8 million against the cap next season. Dennis Pitta, who hasn’t played in almost two years, has a cap hit of $7.2 million in 2016. In 2015, the Ravens were paying for a few players that weren’t even on the team anymore. Ray Rice had a $9.5 million cap hit, and Baltimore still had to pay Haloti Ngata $7.5 million, even though he was playing for the Detroit Lions.
Joe Flacco’s contract may be a little steep, but it’s not the reason the Ravens have struggled. They’ve been hampered by poorly constructed contracts, drafts that haven’t produced playmakers on either side of the ball, and a myriad of terribly timed injuries. Assuming they’re able to free up some cap space, and everyone is healthy, the Baltimore Ravens should be a playoff contender yet again in 2016.